I could not understand exactly if the word to galvanize suggests some violant action? Is it neutral or does it have a meaning more encourage or more incite especially in as the following context? Or can we say it has meaning " raising awareness"

How social media galvanized the community in Ferguson.


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    It's a figurative usage deriving from galvanise = coat (iron or steel) with a protective layer of zinc, because when zinc and various other metals are in contact, this generates an electrical current. So it can cover a range of contexts that don't necessarily involve violence - just any kind of stimulus that might lead to action. In most context, stimulate is the essential sense. – FumbleFingers Jul 11 '15 at 17:53
  • @FumbleFingers Thanks I see it has a essential and more like neutral sense – Mrt Jul 11 '15 at 18:05
  • @FumbleFingers: Well, galvanization is actually an application of the galvanic effect, which was first observed when it was used to cause dissected frog legs to twitch on their own. The more you know! – Nathan Tuggy Jul 11 '15 at 18:16
  • It may be a peculiarity on my part (I can't find any dictionary definition to back me up), but I tend to infer "stiffening, strengthening" as well as "stimulating, prodding". Acually, I think dozens of written hits for galvanized his resolve support my perspective. Perhaps it's because of the "adding metal" (mettle?!) implications. – FumbleFingers Jul 11 '15 at 18:20
  • @Nathan Tuggy: Actually, the term galvanization is commonly used to mean the process of applying a protective zinc coating to steel or iron (per that Wikipedia link). Despite the fact that nearly all of it is done by dipping (in molten metal), so the electrical sense (pretty much an obsolete Victorianism, imho) isn't involved at all. But we still have usages like "galvanic current". – FumbleFingers Jul 11 '15 at 18:27

While "galvanize" nowadays is mostly used to describe the plating of zinc on steel, in this particular case, it means (from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/galvanize)

3. to startle into sudden activity; stimulate.

It derives from the same root as the zinc usage, and refers to the application of an electric current, originally from a galvanic battery. The Wikipedia article on Galvanization https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galvanization states,

Originally, galvanization was the administration of electric shocks, in the 19th century also termed Faradism. This sense is the origin of the meaning of the metaphorical use of the verb galvanize, as in galvanize into action, or to stimulate a complacent person or group to take action.

So, although it does mean "to raise awareness", it means more than that, and implies that awareness was raised to the level of taking action.


I think the OP is right that the verb galvanize in this context means to raise public awareness of the accident.

The Free Dictionary says that it also means to arouse to awareness or action.


i've heard it used to indicate that a person has suddenly and vigorously started from rest. as in "apply an electric shock to them and see them move quickly"

  • This is a correct usage. From the "Galvanic Response" already mentioned in comments to the question. – Chenmunka Nov 13 '15 at 11:33

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